Related Topics: ERP Journal on Ulitzer, Wine Blog on Ulitzer

ERP Journal: Article

10 Rules of Open Source Marketing

New model, new rules


Rule 6: Users Have a New Discovery and Acquisition Process
The way that users choose enterprise software has changed. Users go through a "discover," "research," "try/download," "join community," "buy - support, training, consulting" process. The software is discovered through the Web, SourceForge, Blogs, keyword search, forums, RSS, podcasts, webinars, trials, downloads, traditional media, and word of mouth. Rule 4 discussed "What is also needed is a discontinuity in the infrastructure to deliver Open Source and the tools to support trust-based marketing versus big-budget marketing." These are those tools. Information is no longer power since it's widely available. Trusted sources are widely available. These new tools are also very time-sensitive. Major companies spend weeks fretting about a sentence in a press release. That top-down, time-intensive, review model is now a major weakness since the model doesn't fit the new medium. Open Source companies must become masters of the new medium and masters of speed in the new medium. The strength of large companies again becomes their weakness.

Rule 7: Open Source Companies Have Different Key Performance Indicators
The new discovery and acquisition process means new leading key performance indicators for the company and marketing in particular.

  • Discovery/Mindshare: Press, analyst, blog coverage, web site hits, keyword ranking, number of trained partners
  • Research: Podcast subscriptions, RSS subscriptions, blog subscriptions, wiki hits
  • Trials and Downloads = Number of trials, number of downloads
  • Community: Number of members of the community, number of forge projects
Collaborative Development, testing, translation, support, and knowledge sharing is how to beat large, slow, closed software companies. Collaborative marketing, championed by people who love your software, is also how to beat large, slow, closed software companies. The financial services industry used to live on access to information before other people. Now most information is wide open to most people. The world has changed. The same is true for Open Source software. There are no barriers for people to convey what they dislike/like about closed proprietary companies and what they like/dislike about Open Source companies.

Rule 8: The Value Proposition is Simple
I remember talking to a senior banker at Lehman Brothers and a little thing he said made a lasting impression on me - "The best return on investments (ROIs) I've ever seen I have been able to write on the back of a postage stamp!" The point he was making was that when people make great (career-making) decisions, the ROI is often so obvious it's a no-brainer. The ROI behind Open Source is a no-brainer.

An analogy that someone said to me was that if you have a party you could buy one $1,000 bottle of wine and share it between two people or you could buy 10 $50 bottles of wine for everybody. Most people can't tell the difference and you still have money left over for food. The same is true for enterprise software. Buying expensive closed software has major implications for your budget. Because of the upfront fees you have to go through an expensive and lengthy evaluation process with costly external advice. The software is then so expensive it's typically rolled out only for a department or particular process. Then there's little budget left for training and support. The result is that most people don't benefit from the new technology.

Open Source changes all of that providing a cost-effective rollout for the whole company. Closed enterprise companies will become the expensive boutiques of the software industry.


Rule 9: Your Software Infrastructure is Key
Dell transformed the PC industry not by selling cheap PCs but transforming the whole value chain and supply chain for PC production. From an operational perspective Open Source isn't about cheap software but about transforming the whole value chain for software across development, testing, translation, product management, marketing, sales and support.

The number of people downloading your software, asking questions, accessing your Web site, accessing demonstrations, trialing the product, discussing in forums, updating the wiki ... is massive compared to a traditional software start-up company. The extended infrastructure has to be able to support contributions, bug reports, and fixes from other individuals/companies, take feedback from forums and surveys, and be able to support hundreds of thousands people downloading your software. In amongst this, you have to be able to identify those who want to buy support, patches, and updates for a mission-critical environment and those who want to use the open source as part of the community. Open Source companies have to be masters of the whole Open Source software value chain to support the massive growth potential.

Rule 10: We May Not Be in a Traditional Tornado But the Principles Are Similar
Geoffrey Moore wrote about key behaviours in a tornado and how they changed in the transition from the bowling alley. Open Source is a similar disruption - marketing and business model disruption instead of raw technology disruption. But many of the tornado principles for products still hold true. The product should be simple to install, simple to use, simple to scale out, and simple to develop applications on. It should be standardized as much as possible, reducing complexity, reducing time to deployment, reducing the services required, and making it compatible with industry standards - ultimately preparing it for commodity status and ubiquity.

After seven years at Documentum there were many things I knew in 2000 that I wish I'd known when I started. The Open Source world is moving so fast that there's a lot I know now I wish I'd known when I started at Alfresco. One of the great things about the Open Source community is that not only are people ready to share code they're ready to share ideas and marketing strategies. What we all believe is that ultimately the traditional software model can't compete with the marketing and business model disruption and distribution model of Open Source. You can reach people, geographies, and companies that are impossible in any other way. Your best salespeople become your users using the new medium to champion you. Open Source is not just about Linux or Eclipse. It's a new parallel universe for software stretching from the operating system to the RDBMS, application server, content management system, business intelligence systems and the office, CRM, and ERP applications built on top of this new infrastructure.

More Stories By Ian Howells

Dr. Ian Howells is chief marketing officer of Alfresco and has more than 20 years of enterprise software marketing experience in the fields of content management, service-oriented architectures, and relational database systems. Ian earned a PhD in distributed databases from University College Cardiff. He has long been on the forefront of technology and marketing, holding early positions at Ingres, Documentum and SeeBeyond. You can read Howell's thoughts on open source marketing at

Comments (2)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.